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Member Voices: Richard Spies on Immigration

February 5, 2020
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We’re always grateful to present the voices of our members on this blog. Today, we have Richard Spies, a member of our Immigration Task Force who is passionate about this issue, share some of his thoughts and experiences on the topic. If immigration is of interest to you, be sure to attend the North Texas Conference’s Immigration Summit this Sunday, or contact Richard to learn more about the Task Force. 

It’s been a year since my wife, Lori, and I joined FirstChurch. We love having a place to worship and gather with people who believe as we do. That’s not to say people who necessarily align politically, socially, culturally or dogmatically with us – on the contrary.

Yet, you are a people who know that the world changed when Jesus answered the question “Teacher, which is the Greatest Commandment in the Law?” It was unambiguous (and in my view a radical distillation of the Ten Commandments), closing with “… All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40 NIV)

Love Your Neighbor… but which one?

While I’ve long believed that “love your neighbor” in Jesus’ Greatest Commandment is globally inclusive, during my year here at FirstChurch that conviction has deepened, thanks to serving on the Immigration Task Force with Linda Salton under Holly Bandel’s leadership of Missions and Advocacy. In our Old Testament, dozens of times, the Hebrews are told to treat foreigners, sojourners, travelers, etc. as they treat their own widows and orphans, poor and needy, slaves and laborers. Justice and mercy is for all people.

“God defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)

How can we ignore this imperative, especially while there are almost 30 million “refugees” and “asylum seekers” in the world?

At this very moment, immigrants gathered at the Mexican border are being deprived of the chance to lawfully seek asylum in the U.S. – a stance that we led the world to adopt after WWII in the wake of the Holocaust, and to which we are subject. In this first year at FirstChurch I have been led to witness firsthand some of the results of our U.S. immigration policies. Whether it is in Brownsville or Matamoros, in a church or in a courtroom, in a migrant camp or a respite center– people are suffering and dying. They are living in fear of gangs and cartels, policia and federales, state troopers and police, ICE and CBP. They are being detained without their children, where no one can or will tell them where their children are. They need help.

I met and worked with hundreds of people during the past year who give their time and considerable talents to help others in desperate need. That help takes many forms: sewing CALM (Create a Lasting Memory) dolls for children (pictured right); helping complete asylum forms; supporting the work of attorneys; providing translation services; driving and accompanying asylum seekers to lawyers and court; watching children; crossing the border to provide medical care or to teach on the sidewalk schools; sending letters to advocate for sensible laws; and contributing dollars and supplies that are badly needed.

This is a massive problem with long-lasting implications. It will take a multitude of concerned citizens to care for refugees and ultimately change the laws and policies that are creating chaos and harm.

If you want to better understand this issue, join us this Sunday afternoon at Lovers Lane UMC for the North Texas Conference’s Immigration Summit. Come hear about the issues from those working on the front lines.

I also invite you to join our Immigration Task Force, where you can advocate for and support legal immigration. We’re collaborating with other organizations to help make a difference on a number of levels. Please contact me if you’re interested in joining this effort.


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